The White House is not taking the possibility of a short-term debt ceiling extension off the table as it weighs options to avoid the country defaulting on its debts as President Biden prepares to meet Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) on the matter next week.
On Thursday, Office of Management and Budget Director Shalanda Young told reporters at the White House that extending the debt ceiling was an option.
“I’m sure one of the things on the table we will have to work through is how long. I’m not going to take anything off the table,” Young said when asked about a possible short-term extension.
The meeting scheduled for Tuesday, which will also include Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), was solidified this week after the Treasury Department identified June 1 as a drop-dead date for the debt ceiling before the country defaults on trillions of dollars of loans.
The president plans to warn congressional leaders about the risk of a default, reiterating his stance that a debt limit should be increased without provisions, but House Republicans have demanded an increase also must come with millions in spending cut agreements.
When asked again if an extension is off the table, Young said, “Right now, remember where our debate is. We’re in the take it or leave it phase,” referring to Republicans’ stance on the meeting.
“I would love to be in that part of the conversation,” she added.
The Republican-approved debt ceiling plan McCarthy will bring to the table on Tuesday involves raising the borrowing limit along with sweeping spending cuts. Biden does not support pairing the two.
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Young, though, added, she has “hope that we will find a path to avoid default.”
“I do believe the majority of members of Congress know that is the wrong path to go down. Look, we saw the partisan process play out, now we need to pivot to a bipartisan process,” she said. “Congress can put a bill on the floor tomorrow, avoid default. The D.C. drama, the political brinkmanship, that’s what that is.”
Young also bashed the GOP plan, warning it would mean less funding for veterans, cancer research, and other areas, echoing what the White House’s stance has been on the bill since it was released. She said that in Tuesday’s meeting, Biden will stress that the focus needs to be on raising the debt limit, not spending cuts.
“I can probably write the bill for them in five minutes, it’s pretty easy,” she quipped, adding that it is “made-up drama.”
Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on Tuesday appeared to leave some room for the possibility of supporting a short-term suspension or extension as a way to avoid a default but said she “won’t negotiate in public on any of this.”
The White House has sidestepped questions over whether Biden might decide to invoke the 14th amendment, which would allow the president to unilaterally avoid a default without needing Congress’s approval.
But that hasn’t stopped the White House from laying all the responsibility on the legislative branch.
“It is Congress’ duty to do and we will continue to say that,” Young said about the notion.
Earlier on Thursday, Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines warned that China and Russia would likely exploit the “opportunity” a U.S. government debt default would present.
Young told reporters she agrees with Haines, adding that “they love to see chaos in the American system. They love to see that we can’t do our basic jobs.”
“Does democracy still work or does the Chinese way work? And things like this, we have to step up to the plate and do what’s right for the American people,” she added.